The Energy and Healthcare Issues Come Together
Throw in environmentalism, too, because William Tucker’s thoughts on windmilled energy bring some possibilities to mind:
The major limitation, of course, is wind’s intermittency — its lack of “dispatchability.” Quite simply, you can never count on it. You can’t even predict it from hour to hour with 100 percent accuracy and the windiest sites can go calm for days. On a national electrical grid, where supply and demand must be kept within 5 percent or each other in order to maintain voltage balances, this becomes very disruptive. …
The utilities’ generating capacity, as McCracken points out, generally falls into two categories — base load and peaking. Base load runs day-and-night, week after week, to meet the underlying demand. It is almost universally provided by coal plants, which run for weeks at a time before shutting down for maintenance, and nuclear reactors, which can go almost two years between refueling. Peak loads, on the other hand, are generally met with natural gas turbines, which do not boil water and can be started and stopped almost instantaneously.
Unfortunately, as McCracken notes, wind falls into neithercategory. “As wind provides neither baseload nor peaking plant it has no impact on reserve capacity,” he writes. …
In other words, thanks to government mandates and subsidies, wind will be there to throw power onto the market any time the wind blows. This will not replace base load plants but will only drive down prices, cutting into their revenues. Nonetheless, base-load nuclear plants will have to remain in operation, both because they will be needed as back-ups in case the wind doesn’t blow or — in the case of nuclear — because it doesn’t make sense to keep stopping and starting a plant that runs best for two years at a time.
For some reason, this problem joined, for me, with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s suggestion on Newsmakers that one of the healthcare issues that government must address is obesity. If government takes ultimate responsibility for the healthcare of its citizens, it will gain some right to regulate individual health. What if we put overweight Americans to work generating energy?
Perhaps when the wind dies down, human treadmills could be hooked up to the generator to keep it going. Or, for an even more cartoonish suggestion, perhaps those in need of exercise could turn the wind propellers themselves by dangling off the edge.